The team packed up The Pushers a couple of weeks ago. It was our deepest, juiciest and most polished production– an unpredictable narrative with funny and poignant moments, substantial physical innovation, unusual video projections, miraculous lighting that included state-of-the-art rovers, outstanding performances, and an onstage bar that made an intimate theater feel more intimate.
The artistic success was due to, well, working the fuck out of it. This production was a revised version of the 2014 original. The original required roughly 14 weeks of full cast. It borrowed some underdeveloped ideas from other shows. The revising took another 12 weeks more. Plus, I had 3 years to thing about it. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how long it takes to make a really finished piece.
All told, it probably cost about $75K. That’s before considering the exchange rate between real US dollars and the stuff scraped together by arts groups like SB Dance. When the folks who make up SB Dance go to work in the real world, we probably get paid, on average, about $40/hr. When we work as artists (not educators), we average more like $10. Using that measuring stick, the final toll is closer to $300K.
Who pays that kind of bullshit price for something that disappears after the show closes? For something that cannot hang on a wall or be played on demand or even recorded on paper? By working for nothing, the artists themselves underwrite more than half the expense. After that, it’s SB Dance’s core group of individual supporters– including the Board– who buy tickets and attend fundraisers and spread the word. A bunch of local businesses support fundraisers, provide discounts, and give cash. A few foundations don’t mind swimming against the current and investing with SB Dance. Because it targets adults and not the lucrative family market, SB Dance gets less direct government funding than most our local colleagues. Yet public dollars are crucial to subsidizing the theaters and studios we use.
I’m at the age when I wake when I should be sleeping. Certain thoughts grow like weeds. I wonder what the fuck I did– am doing– with my life. Then I consider the list I described in the last paragraph. It doesn’t quite put me to sleep. But it’s nice to have bedfellows.